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Some things should stay buried.
Repressed scholar Percival Endicott Whyborne has two skills: reading dead languages and hiding in his office at the Ladysmith Museum. After the tragic death of the friend he secretly loved, he's ruthlessly suppressed any desire for another man.
So when handsome ex-Pinkerton Griffin Flaherty approaches him to translate a mysterious book, Whyborne wants to finish the job and get rid of the detective as quickly as possible. Griffin left the Pinkertons following the death of his partner, hoping to start a new life. But the powerful cult that murdered Glenn has taken root in Widdershins, and only the spells in the book can stop them. Spells the intellectual Whyborne doesn't believe are real.
As the investigation draws the two men closer, Griffin's rakish charm threatens to shatter Whyborne's iron control. When the cult resurrects an evil sorcerer who commands terrifying monsters, can Whyborne overcome his fear and learn to trust? Will Griffin let go of his past and risk falling in love? Or will Griffin's secrets cost Whyborne both his heart and his life?
This is one of those rare audio books that will gently push everything else out of your head, a thoroughly engrossing tale told in a voice that will soothe, seduce and excite.
The characters in "Widdershins" are very compelling, and the narrator gives each just enough nuance without intruding on my freedom to imagine. The story starts tugging at my curiosity right off the bat. Within a few pages, I am drawn to Percival Endicott Whyborne -- he has an endearing clumsiness and is so shy I really want to follow him to see why.
The mystery unfolds at a tantalizing pace. Hints are dropped every few pages: a mysterious cipher needs translating, tied to a murder of a wealthy young man “in a seedy part of town.” As it escalates, the richly woven tale incorporates elements of the occult, an ancient Egyptian curse, a secret cult, hideous carnivorous monsters and more. And it is all experienced through the very accessible perspective of our very likable hero.
In addition to the scholarly Whyborne, the book is populated by several enticing players: the dashing detective Griffin Flaherty, the feisty and loyal Dr. Christine Putnam, and a colorful cast of thugs, hookers, pompous bosses and a creepy old-world ghoul. These characters are drawn so well that I can really see them as I listen.
The narration spirals in on you. The first few pages feel aloof and have some technical problems that are unfortunate, but these glitches soon clear up and the timbre of this narrator’s voice comes through clearly. He seems just right for Whyborne: youthful, intelligent, and hesitant, at first. But as the story progresses, as the character grows in confidence, the narrator seems to come closer to the reader’s ear. It’s a pleasant sensation, soothing and familiar.
There is also another sort of suspense, even more adroitly developed. When Whyborne becomes all aflutter over Griffin, the story takes on steam, building up an erotic attraction between two men that, in the Victorian setting, would have been extremely taboo. But this is not a “gay romance” so much as a good story that just happens to include gay characters. The story is erotic, but not tawdry. This is a firstly a suspenseful mystery, then a romance and a love story. Sex comes in due course, but it is not the center of the story. I like that, and the narrator is very good at imbuing these characters with just the right amount of personality to support the carefully crafted sensuality at which Jordan L. Hawk excels.
For me, there are multiple memorable moments in the tantalizing escalation of the romantic attachment between the two lead characters (who just happen to be men). I think this would work equally well for a man and a woman, but there are also unique aspects to a gay romance that the author captures with great sensitivity. The narrator is right there, making these increasingly-erotic encounters both believable and, admittedly, a bit arousing.
I suppose my favorite moment is when Griffin and Whyborne escape hideous monsters by setting off an explosion, and are blown out of the old house and land in the snow. The masculine, muscular Griffin lands on top of the slight, delicate Whyborne, pinning him down. There is a fantastically erotic moment, when Griffin gently asks Whyborne "What am I to do with you?" And Whyborne -- stepping across a hitherto taboo threshold -- says "Whatever you want."
That, and the ending, resonate for me as perfect renditions of a love story between two men, who are perfectly matched.
"Widdershins" is breaking new ground, I think -- moving the genre of "gay fiction" several leagues forward. It's hard to find quality fiction with prominent gay characters. So often, books featuring gay characters make that gayness the center of attention, and the story is all about simplistic sex and "hot" this and "hot" that, shimmering torsos and shallow dialogue. We are beyond that. Widdershins is a gripping story by a talented writer who totally "gets" the nuances of gay romance, read by a narrator who clearly knows whereof he speaks.
23 of 23 people found this review helpful
~~I was provided this audiobook at no charge by the author, publisher and/or narrator in exchange for an unbiased review via AudiobookBlast dot com~~
I had read Widdershins, the first book in the Whyborne & Griffin series, in ebook form before my experience with the audiobook. I already knew that Widdershins offered up a fun and exciting historical story with fantastical elements, as well as a touching romance between two men who hadn't believed they could find acceptance, love, and trust in someone. As I do with audiobooks, I hoped to listen to the narration of this story and have it come alive in a new way. Unfortunately, that didn't happen for me.
I've read this is Julian G. Simmons' first foray into narration and that there were some technical issues that made this a less successful start. I haven't listened to any of the later books in this series (but I've read he's improved and certainly there are readers here who've greatly enjoyed the narration of this one), so I can only speak to what I found.
There was not a distinct enough voice for Griffin. I felt there was an attempt, but it was unsuccessful for my ear. The other voices that were distinct (save for Christine and Whyborne), felt unrefined and fell too much on the caricature side for my preferences, and they didn't stay consistent. Also, at times there was a cadence or rhythm he fell into that made sentences lack punch and drew me away from the story.
This next comment falls on me and how I listen to audiobooks, but it's worth mentioning in case other people are the same. I'm in a car much of the time I'm reading an audiobook, therefore sound of the road intrudes. Each time any character whispered or spoke in low tones, I completely missed what was being said. My phone was up to the highest volume, and I'd miss it every single time. From other audiobooks, I know it's a fine line to "whisper" while still being heard at an audible level for the reader. I'm chalking up this issue to a combination of new narrator, my device's limitations, and my environment. Obviously, a perfect storm of poor sound experience.
On the positive side, even though a distinct voice didn't always come through in the narration, a personality did. There wasn't an ambiguity at all to any character's feelings and motivation as present in the text. Being able to feel all those emotions went a long way in helping me enjoy the story when other parts left me frustrated. Also, I felt like his voice does suit the character of Whyborne very well, which is a definite positive since he is the narrator and one of the main characters. As I mentioned earlier, his presentation of Christine was also a plus. Great personality and a distinct change in voice for her.
Although I can't give a wholehearted recommendation for this audiobook based on my own expectations and experience, I can certainly say this is a book to read if you enjoy a clever blend of historical, supernatural, and romantic elements.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
This was an interesting tale involving mystery and paranormal constructs that takes the listener on a journey of fanciful delight and sympathetic realism. Our protagonist, Percival Endicott Whyborne, begins the journey with such poor self-regard that one not only feels for him, but wants to slap him upside the head to make him realize his truth. Enter, Griffin Flaherty who see's in Percival what the reader see's and attempts to bring it to the forefront. There attraction and subsequent events are influenced by the times in which the story is told, yet love overcomes all...at least in fiction! Love, mystery, death, with a touch of mysticism are the tools that Hawk uses to tell this tale. Simmons, the narrator, does a great job reading this story. All in all, a great read and highly enjoyable.
15 of 16 people found this review helpful
I really liked the story, even though there were a few difficulties with period references. For the first part of the story, I had a hard time remembering that the time frame was in the past. The book used both modern and historic references to items that didn't fit the period. I eventually just decided to *put* myself in the time frame and ignore the inappropriate references.
The narrator was difficult to get used to, but once I had, I was OK with the narration. Not the best performance, but OK. He needs to learn how to read passion.
I am not sure if I would rather read than listen.
It really was a good story with a reasonably fresh plot. I was surprised at the number of books this author has published as he seems to need either more experience or better research skills.
I know this doesn't sound like a good review, but I do recommend listening to it.
10 of 11 people found this review helpful
Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
Oh, heck yes! As to why? Loved that it wasn't just a mystery, but had that added paranormal theme thrown in. <br/>Absolutely love how Whyborne's narration keep true to character. <br/>But would warn that when you first listen. <br/>You may hear like a hollow effect in the back ground of the narration. This clears up or you've learned to ignore it as the storyline becomes more interesting. Also, there was a part or two where Griffin is whispering and I had a problem hearing what he said, but again that clears up also.<br/>Basically tech problems that are easy fixes.
Any additional comments?
I love the narrator who read Widdershins! Except for one or two tech problems, he did a wonderful job and hopefully will narrate the next one.<br/>Really felt like I was in that time period.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
What did you love best about Widdershins?
it was nice and long but didn't feel that way, fun plot that felt real even though it was historical and supernatural. characters were really endearing.
What did you like best about this story?
i keep wishing for books that have both men and women in them, i find the single focus of m/m or f/f on one gender kind of boring, as if we don't have other people around us. smart, sarcastic, gun-toting christine was a fun addition - she doesn't tolerate moping and angst which as a reader i also hate.
Any additional comments?
the production value on the narration is not great. it took me a while to get used to the narrator who at first i thought would never have an inflection. but after 20 minutes i found his reading really peaceful and fitting for the main character. now i hope he narrates the next book.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
The story is good enough to continue...in ebook format. The narration and quality of recording (it sounded like he was in a tin can!), regrettably, detracted from the enjoyment of the story.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
I had a hard time getting into Widdershins. Upon reflection, I think that had a lot to do with an Audible narrator who was so passive as to sound like every sentence he had to utter was a terrible bore and just getting up in the morning must have been a tedious chore. It made the main character sound whiney and dumb and completely unlikeable. There was no spark of intelligence at all - just confusion, annoyance, and a grievous amount of tell over show.
Story: Percival Whyborne has had to live under the cloud of his very famous and very powerful father's name for all his life. At the Ladysmith University, he is still harassed mercilessly for being a Whyborne but at least he has his books. Until Griffin Flaherty comes into the university seeking a translation of a very odd book. Suddenly both men find themselves caught up in a supernatural world and conspiracy with far reaching consequences.
As far as paranormal goes, there isn't much new here. That doesn't necessarily mean it is a bad book but a LGB theme isn't going to excuse or justify sloppy/poor writing. Plot and world building is still incredibly important and none of the characters or the University felt real. The book had a cartoony feel that, while not terrible, still never felt grounded at any time. The conspiracy ended up sounding too much like a B-movie trying to use Masons or Shriners as world dominating evil mustache twirlers. It was hard to decide who was stupider sounding - the main characters or the villains (ok, the villains were stupider). There was the spark of something good under all the mess but it was pretty well hidden.
Because the narration was so offputting, I would not recommend the Audible version. Perhaps I might have enjoyed this more had I read the book instead of listened to it.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
I like these characters, and I am driven to read each offering in the series as it is released. The narrator's best voice is that of Christine, which makes it hard to listen to his less-than-good attempts at Griffin and Whyborne. I think the author misses opportunities to make the relationship more compelling - but that doesn't mean I won't be buying the next in the series when it is released.
6 of 7 people found this review helpful
This is another book that I listened to via the Audible version. I have not read this book previously so the narration was my first experience of the story.
I'm going to make a claim without really being able to back this up - the audio version was brilliant and really enhanced my enjoyment of this story! Okay, I don't really know if I would have enjoyed it any less if I had read it but I totally adored the narration of this book.
The characters were totally wonderful and I fell in love with both Whyborne and Griffin. Outwardly Whyborne was so unsure of himself, shy and unassertive, totally lacking self confidence but in reality he was a wonderfully strong man - standing on his own, following his own path in life and supporting himself rather than relying on his well-to-do father. Griffin appears strong and confident but has his own demons and inner torment. Together they are fabulous.
I am not a huge fan of historical romances and only read a smattering in the paranormal genre so was surprised by how much I liked this book. The style of writing, the speech and the behaviour of all the characters seemed to capture the era perfectly. I particularly liked the formality of interactions between work colleagues and the totally fabulous Christine!
The story was full of mystery, intrigue and horror as Whyborne and Griffin team up to stop the resurrection of wonderfully descriptive evil monsters. They follow clues, deal with Whyborne's colleagues at the museum, fight off half-human-half-animal creatures, all while their attraction for each other grows.
Julian G Simmons captured the essence of Whyborne perfectly. The soft spoken quality of his voice, his tone and inflections matched the character of Whyborne and was totally in keeping with the period of the story.
I can highly recommended the audio version!
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
When i read the description I expected a bit more of the occult, turn of the century gothic style detective noir romp.
What i got was a lightly smattered occultish, cthullhuish, noirish, gay sexual awakening with far to much attention on what was happening in the fawning protagonists trousers, a doe of a man who shambles through the story. i felt no love of the main character, far more for Christine the feisty Archaeologist with a back bone and Griffin the the main squeeze at least he had a gun. i guess i can describe the book as such one third gay awakening and soft core porn description, one third boring descriptions of non story telling devices and one part could have been a great Cthulhuish magicish noir romp. the performance was fine some fairly ropey accents and some parts could have been slightly more emotive but it was clear and well paced to listen.
well if this is part one maybe thats the doldrum out of the way and the next will be a better with a greater emphasis on the story plot. This is probably the first audio book where ive just wanted to skip the romance as it was almost cringeworthy, having just finished 100+hours of the last few Game of thrones books and having never felt the need to skip any it gives you some idea.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
this was a strange experience. gay slightly soft porn vampire hunters not being my usual genre ( only previous experience a Sookie Stack house which I found appalling). However, the story was acceptable as was the narration generally( down market Jake Gyllenhall, listen to his Gatsby which is brilliant). Alas then came the regional British and Irish accents which were execrable, and that's a compliment. I think my audio receptors went into shock and am still feeling bruised and numb mentally. have a listen and feel tour jaw hit the pavement.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Amazon has been recommending me this book for months and I had been putting it off for a long time as I prefer contemporary or fantasy romance. I ran out of stuff to read/listen to and decided to take a chance and immediately realised I should have done this sooner.
The story starts out as a mystery, turns romantic and then dives into a H P Lovecraft inspired fantasy / horror. I particularly liked the main characters journey from stuffy and repressed intellectual to hero over the course of the story.
I did find the narration a little bit difficult to get a long with for the first few chapters, it sounded a little stillted and lifeless, but it changes as the book goes and by the end captures the excitement of the action quite well. I am not sure if this was a case of narrator finding the characters voice as they went or an intentional choice to reflect character growth over the course of the story.
I am excited to see that there are several books already in this series and am curious to see where the story goes next so I won't be long until I start on book two.
What did you like best about this story?
It's a fabulous story and I'll listen again.
Have you listened to any of Julian G. Simmons’s other performances? How does this one compare?
My only issue was the Irish accent, I think sometimes it works just as well to not use the accent.
I absolutely love these books. The mixture of dectective/mystery story with paranormal/Lovecraftian monsters is very well done.
The only minor peeve I have is the amount of sex in the book - not because I'm a prude or homophobic, but because it takes up pages that might be used for more story.
All in all, its a great read and a brilliant start to the series.
The narration throughout is superb, especially for the real villain and Dr Putnam
I loved this story. The main characters are brilliant and the plot intriguing. The narrator had a voice which truly fits the story.
One I will listen to again and again.
I hope the sequel comes out in audio soon.
1 of 2 people found this review helpful